Teaching theme is a difficult concept for first graders, but it's not something I want to shy away from. I start by having students answer text dependent questions where they have to describe characters, and events from both stories. This will help me support students in comprehending the key ideas and details in the text. However, I've also structured the questions so that they progress towards helping students comprehend theme in the text and thereby understand the stories on a deeper, more analytical. Today's questions support students mainly in comparing how Cendrillion and Adelita are the same in both stories.
In order to determine the theme, students will also have to engage in discussion so they can express their ideas to their partners. As students discuss content, my job is to circulate around the room, checking to make sure students use correct sentence structure and speak in complete sentences and that they are following the agreed upon rules for partner talk.
For today's lesson you will need either the Smartboard Cinderella Compare and Contrast Lesson.notebook or Activboard Cinderella Compare and Contrast Lesson.flipchart lesson. Students will need their double bubble maps and their question packets from the previous lessons.
I partnered my students up, and they had their work packets in front of them. I said, "Today we are going to be learning about the theme of our stories. We've done one lesson on theme before in our blue readers. Does anyone remember what the theme of a story is?" My students couldn't remember so I said, "The theme of the story is the lesson that the author is trying to teach us. The authors of our stories want us to learn something from these stories. Today we are going to be answering some questions in our packets. In these questions we are going to be comparing how Cendrillion and Adelita acted in the stories because they both acted very similar. We are going to talk a lot about these questions with our partners and then after we've answered the first three questions we will write down what we think the authors tried to teach us. Again, the lesson or the message the authors want us to take away is the theme."
"We are going to do the first question together. I am going to give you time to talk to your partner first and then we'll have a class discussion before we write down our answer. I just want to make sure everyone is on the right track to start with."
We read the first question together which was:
As partners were talking, I walked around the room and tried to ask questions of my students to help them along. After partner talk, we had a group discussion. We went into great detail about how both girls were kind even though their stepmothers and stepsisters treated them badly. Students discussed how if that had happened to them, they might have been mean right back, so these girls must be incredibly kind. After discussing, I let my students write the answer on their packets. When students were done writing I said, "You will answer the next 3 questions with your partner. I want you to talk about what you think with your partner first, and then write down your answers. Does everyone understand what to do?"
I circulated around the room as students answered the next 3 questions. You wouldn't think it would take a long time to answer 3 questions but I was impressed with my students because they discussed each question in great detail. I especially liked how partners were able to express what they thought to each other and when they disagreed with each other they did so respectfully. At the beginning of the year I taught them to say, "I respectfully disagree." Students were doing this naturally and no one felt slighted or belittled. When partners disagreed they asked me, "Which answer do we put down?" I told them that I wanted to know what they thought so they could have a different answer than their partner.
I was constantly circulating around the room, making sure students were following partner talk rules and speaking in complete sentences with the correct syntax. If you have a student with speech or language issues, you don't need to wait for the speech teacher to work on these issues. You can help students improve with their speech and language by listening carefully during partner and class discussions. While students were writing, I was making sure they were using correct grammar and conventions. You can see a portion of this part of the lesson here: Writing Our Answers and Theme - Cinderella Stories.mp4.
One of my fabulous teacher aides made me both a Facebook and Twitter poster this year. I use both of these as a fun way to close our lessons. I said, "Would we like to tweet or post today?" Students wanted to tweet so we used our Twitter poster. I gave each student a post it note. I said, "On your post it note I want you to write what you learned about what theme is and why you think its important to learn."
Even though my students haven't mastered the skill of determining theme, we are on the right track. I have a few work samples and some thoughts on each in this video Student Work - Theme Cinderella Stories.mp4.